Your Summer Fitness Bucket List
Try Kite Boarding
Why should you give this adrenaline-charged sport a shot? “Kite boarding lets you experience the tricks of wakeboarding, the gliding sensation of parasailing, and the wave-riding of surfing, without requiring advanced skills or a lot of practice,” says John Arthur, chief instructor of Manta Water Sports in San Diego. Another bonus: All the gear you need, including the sail, board, harness, and helmet, can pack up neatly in a backpack. The only caveat is that you must take lessons with an experienced teacher first. “Your first instincts—like fighting back against the kite—are going to be wrong, so it can be dangerous to go out on your own as a beginner,” Arthur says.
Sure, scuba diving hundreds of feet underwater sounds a little scary, but the amazing payoff of seeing marine life up close is totally worth it. “Scuba diving is an exhilarating, lifelong sport,” says Theresa Kaplan, a certified PADI diver and director for communications & PADI Diving. To get your feet wet, she recommends first-time divers sign up for a Discover Scuba Diving course at a local dive shop. There you’ll learn how to use scuba equipment in a quick and easy pool introduction, then get to dive with a certified instructor and breathe underwater for the first time.
Complete a Sprint Triathlon
Getting bored with your workout routine is not an option when you’re training for a tri since you’ll be mixing it up with biking, swimming, and running on different days, says Alan Kohll, a certified triathlon coach and director of the Race Omaha event series. Sprint-distance races, which include a 750-meter swim, 20K bike ride, and 5K run, are a good place to start, but if that’s too much to tackle on your own, you can join a relay team with one or two teammates who take on individual segments. “No matter what kind of race you join, finishing a sprint triathlon will give you an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” says Kohll.
“Kayaking is a great way to get outside and explore while getting an amazing core and upper body workout—without even realizing you’re exercising,” says Christie G. Eastman, a professional whitewater kayaker. Her No. 1 tip for newbies: Try to relax your hips when paddling. New paddlers are often nervous and tense up their hips, which makes the kayak unstable in choppy water. “Gently rock the boat from side to side with your hips when you first get on the water to release tension, find your balance, and test the stability of the kayak,” Eastman suggests. [Tweet this tip!]
Sign up for an Outdoors Bootcamp
After being cooped up inside for most of the year, take your HIIT workout outside to challenge your body, add cardio, and overall have more fun. “Training outside is like having an endless playground at your disposal,” says Eric Salvador, certified trainer and head instructor at The Fhitting Room in New York City. “There’s more space to run and move around, so you’re not restricted to stationary exercises—standing lunges become walking lunges, high knees become sprints, and so on, so there’s a greater cardio element.”
Jump Out of Plane
No bucket list is complete without skydiving. “Everyone should try it—it is an experience like no other,” says Eric Vansteenbergen, a coach at Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner, NY. “You’ll get a rush of adrenaline during the freefall, when your speed tops out at around 120 miles per hour. Then when the canopy opens, you’ll slow down to 10 to 20 miles per hour to enjoy amazing views and a relaxing ride to the ground.” It's totally normal to be nervous about jumping out of a plane, but try to be open-minded about the experience, says Vansteenbergen. “People have been doing it for 30-plus years, and today’s equipment is very reliable and safe. Just relax and take it all in!”
Play Beach Volleyball
For some, a lazy day on the beach will do the trick, but if you prefer to stay active on the sand, this game is a much better way to enjoy a day in the sun. Nora Tobin, a former professional volleyball player, certified trainer, and Shape contributor, offers these words of wisdom for beginners: “Always keep your eye on the ball. Watch it into your arms when passing, and watch your hand hit the ball when spiking. Doing this will ensure you make solid contact and most likely make a great play.” And before you hit the sand, don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen—and then reapply. “Beach volleyball is such a fun sport that it’s easy to get carried away and forget,” she says.
Catch a Wave
We don’t need to tell you how badass surfer chicks are—if you’ve never tried surfing, make this the summer you learn. Tobin suggests choosing a soft-top board to start, which will make it easier on your body when learning how to pop up, and you’ll avoid any bruises on your stomach that you may get from a hard surfboard, she says. First practice your pop-ups on the sand: Lie on your stomach. Press through your hands, then jump up to a squat position with one foot forward and the other back. Shift your hips back and keep your chest up. Stay equally balanced over both feet. Practice this move a dozen times before heading out to the water. [Tweet this tip!] When you’ve progressed to the ocean, make sure to keep your gaze straight down the line of the wave and avoid looking down, which may make you lose balance.
Organize a Tennis Game
If you haven’t grabbed a racket since your childhood day camps, it’s time to break out those tennis whites once again. "Tennis provides an enormous cardio workout, improves core strength, and gives definition to the legs and butt,” says Robin White, a former professional tennis player, USTA national coach, and tennis director of the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. “There’s also the social aspect of developing lifelong friendships—you can play well into your 80s!” Plus, tapping into your competitive side is always a nice way to let out a little steam—just leave it behind on the court!
Escape the Spin Studio
Take your SoulCycle skills off-road this summer. Mountain biking provides a heart-pounding workout with a side of awesome views. One tip that beginners should keep in mind: “Mountain biking requires a lot of stop-and-start movements as you go around obstacles on the trail. You’ll need to be able to balance on the bike as it momentarily slows and to keep you upright and on the pedals,” explains Bob Talamini, an experienced mountain biker and certified trainer at the Houstonian Club in Houston, TX. And while mountain bikes are very versatile, make sure you choose the right one for your purposes. (Check out REI’s handy guide here.)
Mud runs or obstacle races like the Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, or Shape Diva Dash are rapidly growing in popularity: An estimated four million people participated in a mud run or obstacle course in 2013—twice as many as in 2012. And for good reason: “Even though these events are ‘extreme,’ they’ve been made accessible to all levels of fitness,” says Jon Stratford, certified trainer for Grokker.com. They’re more about challenging yourself and trying your best rather than feeling the pressure to win, he says. And there’s a community feel, with people helping each other on the course.
For your first mud run, expect obstacles you’ll have to climb, wade or swim through, jump off, crawl under, and balance on, says Stratford. You’ll use all parts of your body, so strong muscles in your back, legs, and core are key. Stratford suggests developing a steady but challenging strength-training routine, then adding cardio intervals and longer distance runs to your sessions. Also train with ropes to improve your grip, a skill that can be overlooked but is essential for these races, he says.
RELATED: 5K Obstacle Course Training Plan
Take a Hike
There’s no question that getting outside is good for the soul as well as the body. “Unlike a machine or track, the terrain is constantly varying so you work all the different muscles in your legs, and your core is engaged in keeping balance and carrying a pack,” says Adrian Ballinger, founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, six-time Everest summiter, and certified mountain guide. “But beyond the physical benefits, hiking is also about exploring a beautiful place and giving yourself a break. For your first time out, carve out enough time to take in the views, smell the wildflowers, and maybe take a quick dip in a mountain stream.”
Just don’t forget to do your homework first: Read up on trail condition and potential hazards, check the weather, pack the right gear (like lightweight rain jacket, headlamp, and hydration pack), wear sturdy shoes, and bring nutritious snacks and plenty of water, Ballinger says.
Go Rock Climbing
This indoor or outdoor sport challenges almost every muscle in your body from your fingers to your toes, primarily your arms, quads, and calves (it’s not just upper body as you may think). But don’t be intimated to try it out yourself! “Sign up for an intro class at your nearest rock climbing gym,” suggests professional rock climber Sasha DiGiulian. “There you’ll learn the basics, which gear you’ll need, and how to belay.” It’s also a great place to meet other beginner climbers and future climbing partners, she says.
Hit the Links
Golfing isn't just for middle-aged men. There are plenty of reasons why more and more women are taking up the sport. "For one, it's one of the few sports where you can be active and socialize at the same time," says Nicole Smith, a professional golfer on the LPGA. Then add in that walking an 18-hole round of golf is equivalent to a 3.5-mile run or 5-mile walk, and can burn up to 2,000 calories. Beginners should take a lesson or two with a local pro to get comfortable with the game, Smith suggests. And a quick note for your swing: Remember it's all about brushing the grass—the ball just happens to get in the way!